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. and then came the 1980s and the tax cuts of ronald reagan combined with greater defense spending leading to hugely higher annual deficits covered by borrowing. and thus again a swelling national debt. but with no wars at all. then under presidents george h.w. bush and bill clinton we took action. for a while, both parties agreed, says simon johnson. >> there was a bipartisan agreement to raise revenue and put something of a damper on spending. so that's an important moment in the bigger picture, of course, that was just a small hesitation on the part of a much larger national debt. >> reporter: because in the bigger picture, a president just can't accomplish very much if he's cutting spending and won't raise taxes. and so yet again, more borrowing. under presidents george w. bush and barack obama. higher deficits and debt that, because of the graying baby boom, are fated to get even worse. >> the population was always going to age, the baby boomers were going to retire. they were paying a lot of social security contributions in 1990s. we were always going to shift into structural deficit
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